Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

The phenomenological reduction: concreteness

Method: Bracket all knowledge, all theory or theoretical meaning, all belief in what is real, and aim at evoking concreteness or living meaning.

 

The phenomenological reduction requires that one avoid all abstraction, all theorizing, all generalization, even all belief in the existence of what we call “real” or “not real” (the experience of a dream or hallucination can be just as real as the experience of an actual event). Indeed, for any research project one must examine the available theories and discuss the body of knowledge about the topic. Theories need to be reviewed for how they inform experience, by ultimately fail to capture it in its inexhaustible richness. Most theories contain some phenomenological material, or they are built on certain intuitions that presume phenomenological understandings. In the phenomenological reduction one needs to strip away the theoretical or scientific conceptions and thematizations that overlay the phenomenon one wishes to study, and which prevents one from seeing the phenomenon in a non-abstracting manner.

 

The best way to bracket theoretical meaning is not to simply ignore it but to examine it for any phenomenological insights or understandings hidden in it. It is also helpful to examine how theories gloss or hide the experiential reality upon which they ultimately must be based. Theories tend to explain phenomena that are not really understood in a lived or concrete sense. So one must ask: how is this topic actually experienced? What are examples of possible incidents or events? Phenomenological inquiry is continually oriented to the beginning, to experience as lived.